OTTAWA, June 5, 2012 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National
Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today expressed support for six First
Nations youth who walked from Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation (Grassy
Narrows) to Toronto, a 2,000 kilometer trek. The youth are walking to
raise awareness of the mercury poisoning in the English Wabigoon River
system in Ontario, caused by the Dryden paper mill in the 1960s. The
youth walkers arrive in Toronto today to take part in River Run 2012, a
series of events in support of Grassy Narrows.
"It is always inspiring to see our youth taking action to bring
attention to a situation that most people either do not know about or
have been ignoring for decades," said AFN National Chief Atleo. "These
young people are real leaders and we offer our full support to
Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation in their call for a public inquiry
into the ongoing health impacts of mercury poisoning as well as their
call for environmental monitoring and the establishment of a permanent
In 1970, the Ontario government banned fishing in the English Wabigoon
River system due to high levels of mercury in the fish and the water.
Without being allowed to fish, the people of Grassy Narrows First
Nation immediately lost a major source of income and sustenance.
This type of mercury poisoning is called Minamata Disease, named for an
outbreak in Minamata, Japan in the 1950s. In Asubpeeschoseewagong First
Nation, Minamata Disease, Minamata Disease with complications or
possible Minamata disease have been diagnosed following the
contamination of the river by mercury and again in recent years by Dr.
Masazumi Harada from Japan, an expert in the field of mercury
poisoning. The Mercury Disability Board, set up by the Governments of
Canada and Ontario, does not currently recognize all individuals who
continue to suffer the effects of mercury poisoning.
"Both the federal and provincial governments need to recognize and
effectively address the lasting issue of mercury exposure in First
Nation communities along the English Wabigoon River system," said
National Chief Atleo. "The action by these youth walkers must lead to a
real commitment from governments. First Nations across the country
stand in support of these youth and the people of all affected
Recent studies have shown that the mercury poisoning, first identified
over 40 years ago, continues to affect the people of Grassy Narrows.
Furthermore, clear-cut logging in Grassy Narrows' territory over the
past few years is also believed to be a contributing factor. The
Government of Ontario has recently released plans for further clear-cut
logging in the territory.
On July 20th 2010, the AFN Annual General Assembly passed a resolution reaffirming
the AFN's support of Grassy Narrows and other mercury impacted
More information about the youth walkers and River Run 2012 can be found
The Assembly of First Nation is the national organization representing
First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @NCAtleo,
SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS
For further information:
Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-292-0857 or email@example.com